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Comedy Matters
Written and Photographed
by Jeffrey Gurian


Jeffrey Gurian and Lorne Michaels

 

Saturday Night Live - An Untold Story at The Writers Guild Awards

More years ago than I want to remember, the legendary Jack Rollins (who was representing not only Woody Allen at the time, but also Billy Crystal and Robin Williams) called the legendary Emmy-award winning writer/producer Herb Sargent at SNL on my behalf and asked him to meet with me and take a look at some short comedy films I was doing at the time.

Short films like "The Masters of Disguise": Two master criminals who disguised themselves as inanimate objects to commit their crimes. Like - Two men disguised as coats rob a hat store. They come in over the arms of two other men who swear they had no part in the whole thing. I cut to an interview with the two unwitting accomplices, who explain, "These two guys came up to us, folded themselves over our arms, stuck guns in our ribs, and said ‘Just act natural like we're your coats, and nobody'll get hurt.’"

The crimes escalated to the point where 250,000 men disguised as vests robbed a suit warehouse of their entire inventory. The confused designer said, "I know I only design two piece suits. I went to the factory this morning, and every single suit had a vest. I came back from lunch, and all of the suits were gone - a quarter of a million suits, gone. ‘It had to be the vests!’" All the interviews were on film, and it was done like a news broadcast.


Robert Duvall and Jeffrey Gurian at the WGA Awards

Anyway, I go to meet Herb Sargent, who was in charge of News Update, and he says to me (and I'll never forget his exact words!), "I don't even have to look at your tape. If Jack Rollins says you're funny, you're funny." Anyway he looks at the tape, laughs out loud, and makes an appointment for me to meet with John Head who was in charge of film acquisition at the time.

And this is where things start to go terribly wrong, thanks to me. I have an appointment to meet with John on a Wednesday. I decide to act like a big shot, and invite a gorgeous girl I was trying to impress to come on my interview with me. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid in your life? You invite a girl to come to a business meeting that could fulfill the dream of a lifetime?


Tracy Morgan and Jeffrey Gurian
at the WGA Awards

Of course she agrees to come. She was a model/actress, and hungry to meet people. So I show up at SNL with this girl in tow, and who do we run into but good old Dennis Miller. Dennis was doing News Update at the time, and was also very single. I had known him from Columbus Café, and so he asked me why I was there. He wasn't really listening to my answer, since he couldn't take his eyes off this girl, and made it obvious he wanted to meet her.

When I told Dennis about my tape he asked if he could sit in on the meeting. That was when The Universe decided to really teach me a lesson. I of course said " yes" in all my naivete, excited that he too would be seeing my "genius" work, not realizing for a moment that he does comedy news and that my tape was comedy news.

At the end of the viewing, John said to me (and his words are also etched into my consciousness), " I see no reason why you shouldn't be doing films for SNL. Call me on Monday and I'll set up a meeting for you with Lorne." I was ecstatic, despite the fact that the girl I was with had surreptitiously given Dennis her number.


Jeffrey Gurian and Jamie-Lynn Sigler at the WGA Awards

Over that weekend, instead of seeing me, she went out with him, and wound up socializing with a couple of huge comedy stars that were friends of his, while I stayed at home wanting to kill myself. But wait, it gets better!

That Monday, I call John to make the appointment to see Lorne, and John tells me in a kind of hesitant way that Dennis Miller liked my work so much, that he wanted to be the one to take it to Lorne so he (John) was out of it, He told me to call Dennis which I did, about a hundred times, and he never returned my call. To say I was frantic would be the phrase that won the Gold medal in the "Understatement Olympics", if there ever was such a thing.


Sarah Jessica Parker, Pippin Parker (Sarah's Brother)
and Matthew Broderick at the WGA Awards

Finally I ran into Dennis at Columbus Cafe and asked him what was up. He said the show wanted him to do remotes, and that wasn't his thing, or "his focus" as he put it, but he acknowledged that it was my thing, so he said if I could get him some remotes that he liked, he would use them on the show.

Very nice until he told me he wanted them the next day. I stayed up all night writing them, got them over to him, and he never even got back to me. No response at all. I was devastated. I tried to contact Lorne, but I wasn't able to, and I didn't really think he would take my side against one of his stars, so I just let it go.

Only a few people know this story up until now. Lorne Michaels is not one of them. The big lesson here is when you try to look like a big shot, you usually wind up looking like the ultimate putz! That incident probably changed my career forever.

Lorne received the coveted Herb Sargent Award for Comedy Excellence at this year's star-studded Writer's Guild Awards. Herb was President of The Writers Guild of America East until his passing in May of 2005. The Universe works in strange ways as I found myself leaving the theatre at the end of the evening basically pressed against Lorne Michaels who was walking along by himself, right in front of me.

The time might have been perfect to tell him the story. Or, it might not have been. It's always important to not come off like a maniac. I had met Lorne many times over the years through my friendship with cast members like Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz, but I hadn't seen him in quite a while.

 


Mark (Love Man) Pender of the Max Weinberg 7 (Conan)
And Jeffrey Gurian

I was debating what to do and making myself nervous I finally tapped Lorne on the shoulder, and told him about Herb being my mentor, reminisced about Phil a little bit, and then took a photo together, but the story stayed with me. I realized, it's not the kind of story you tell someone when they're possibly in a hurry, getting ready to leave a place.

And what would I have expected him to do anyway, come to my house to see the films? They are not outdated by the way because they are fantasy comedy which never goes out of date. I did ask about John Head and Lorne told me he was still there. Maybe I'll just send him this column. If any of you are close to Lorne, feel free to pass this on.

The WGA awards were amazing and I got great stories from Academy Award winning actor Robert Duvall (who was very gracious and humble), the incredibly funny and talented Tracy Morgan, genius creative force Tom Fontana (V.P. of the WGAE), Jerry Della Femina, Judy Licht and award winning actor Matthew Broderick for my book called "Turning Point - A Book of Hope and Inspiration," about the synchronicitous events in celebs lives that took them in a different direction. But the Lorne Michaels connection made the evening for me.

Sarah Silverman Totally Rocks

Sarah was headlining at Carolines two days before the debut of her new Comedy Central show, "The Sarah Silverman Program." I came away from both with a new respect for Sarah. Not that I didn't think she was funny before but I was particularly struck by her cleverness, and her ability to talk about things most people would never mention, but do it in such a disarming way that you realize it was just a joke.



Sarah Silverman and Jeffrey Gurian at Caroline's Comedy Club

She's a little girl and a sexy little mynx all at the same time, and that duality has always worked, especially for men. Her show about her being convinced she has AIDS, and starting an AIDS Awareness center only to find out that she doesn't have it and then she gets chased and beaten by a mob, is a classic example. She mixes fantasy and reality in a way that I like, because I would do it exactly the same way.

Also, she seemed genuinely excited about me taking a photo of her with comedy legend Joe Franklin. She made me promise to send it to her, which I will.

Rockers On Broadway

Speaking of AIDS, I attended the amazing benefit concert at B.B. King's called Rockers on Broadway, a group that raises money to fight AIDS, founded by Donnie Kehr of The Jersey Boys. Donnie produced, along with Cori Gardner, and Sandy Hicks, and it was hosted by funny, funny, sweet, actress/comedienne Caroline Rhea, who looked gorgeous, and whose make-up was done by my old dear friend Seven Chaperon who I hadn't seen in almost ten years.



Liza Minelli and Jeffrey Gurian at B.B. King's Blues Club

What a line-up. The Tokens with my buddy Jay Leslie opened the show with their legendary hit, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The audience went crazy. Also on the bill: Debora Gibson, who sang "It's My Party"; the legendary Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees; country star Larry Gatlin; J.Robert Spencer also of The Jersey Boys; and two other legends - Leslie Gore and my old pal Liza Minelli.

Bob Saget - The Nicest Guy In The World

When Bob Saget declined to be in my new book "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive," he did it in a way that was so kind and classy there was no way I could be offended. He just felt he had been on too many compilation projects after The Aristocrats. But he wrote me the nicest letter of explanation. Very few celebs declined, but his was definitely the nicest.


Jeffrey Gurian and Bob Saget at the Press Conference
for "Farce of the Penguins
."

At the press conference for his new film, "Farce of the Penguins"(written and directed by Bob), and starring everyone in Hollywood including narration from Samuel L. Jackson, I had a chance to have a serious conversation with Bob on life and death and spiritual matters. H e confided that his beloved Dad was so ill. I shared with him the stories of when my own Dad was so ill and it was a very meaningful conversation, unlike most of the ego-filled events we both attend.

He left to tape Conan O'Brien and only hours later received the news that his father Ben, had passed away at age 89. Our deepest condolences go out to you Bob!

Comedy Matters Girl of the Month

This month my "GOTM" is Jacqueline Beaulieu, of Connecticut, not only an actress/ model, but a classically trained ballerina. Talk about flexibility!




Jacqueline Beaulieu and Jeffrey Gurian

She's almost like a beautiful version of Margaret Dumont who was often the comedic foil for Groucho Marx. She was funny, but you never were quite sure whether she got it! This girl gets it, and I know you'll be seeing a lot of her!

Anyway, until next time, remember, COMEDY MATTERS!!!

A nationally known comedy writer and an authority on roast humor, Jeffrey L. Gurian has written material for many of the great performers at the fabled Friars Roasts including Richard Belzer, Robin Williams, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis and even Bruce Willis, as well as material for comedy stars such as Joan Rivers, Gilbert Gottfried, Phil Hartman, Pauly Shore, "Dice" Clay, and Pat Cooper. He wrote and directed The Men Who Series of short films for the Toyota Comedy Festival currently showing on cell phones and You Tube. . He also wrote for MTV and USA Network and was one of the writers of Sony's first interactive film. As a playwright he wrote a one- hour NBC drama about the devastating effects of homelessness on the young, entitled De La Salle. He was given the honor of having his own column in the legendary Weekly World News called "Gurian's
World of the Bizarre." His first feature film Face to Face, that he wrote with Scott Baio, made its world premiere at the Taos, New Mexico Film Festival, and was honored as the opening night film. It has since become an award-winning film and won for Best Comedy Feature at the Marco Island Film Festival in Florida and the Valley Film Festival in Hollywood. His newest film, I Am Woody , about a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, won for Best Short Film at the NY Independent Film Festival. Jeffrey can be seen around town performing his comedy news broadcast Uncle Nat's Traveling Peep Show with his comedy partner model/performer Sonya Gignac. Jeffrey was recently chosen to be the East Coast producer of National Lampoon radio. His first book, based on his writing for the Friars Roasts is from Kensington Books, "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive - Jokes So Dirty Comedians and Entertainers Only Tell Them To Each Other." In addition Jeffrey is a Clinical Professor at NYU in the Oral Medicine/Oro-Facial Pain Department, a cosmetic dentist, lecturer, author and healer. He also is credited for developing a cure for stuttering. You may read more at http: www.jeffreygurian.com.



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